The Swim Professor

Jim Reiser, M.S.

How the Stages of Learning Should Influence the Swim Instructor’s Approach

When learners begin to acquire a new skill, they are generally confronted with some very specific, cognitively oriented problems (Magill, 1993). While learners of all ages go through this, observing an adult learn to swim may illustrate this the best. If you have ever worked with adults who are beginners, what really stands out? In my experience, the answer is their QUESTIONS!  How do I pitch my hand? Where exactly does it enter the water? Should I hold my breath or exhale under water? What pattern does my arm make? Should my legs be bent or straight? Sound familiar? Each of these examples indicate the basic and cognitive level at which the new learner is operating in the early part of learning a new skill. Learners of all ages display these characteristics, however, I believe the adult beginner magnifies the characteristics which is why I used them in my example.

One characteristic of motor skill learning is that it is possible to identify distinct states or phases that all learners seem to experience as they learn skills through practice. While there have a been a few proposals to identify the stages of learning, I find the model by Paul Fitts and Michael Posner that was developed in 1967 to be most useful for swimming instructors. The Fitts and Posner Three-State Model is also traditionally accepted as the classic stage of learning model.

STAGES OF LEARNING, CHARACTERISTICS & TEACHING IMPLICATIONS

COGNITIVE STAGE OF LEARNING

The first stage of learning is considered the COGNITIVE STAGE OF LEARNING. Students in the cognitive stage display the following common characteristics when they perform:

  • They make a large number of errors
  • The nature of the errors committed tend to be gross
  • Their performance is highly variable

TEACHING IMPLICATIONS

  • Patience. Be understanding and keep encouraging.
  • Give cues and buzzwords to teach the gross idea or general idea of the skill.
  • Beginners may know they are doing something wrong, but they aren’t aware of exactly what to do differently to improve. Give specific, corrective feedback.

ASSOCIATIVE STAGE OF LEARNING

The second stage of learning is considered the ASSOCIATIVE STAGE OF LEARNING. The nature of the cognitive activity that is characterized in the cognitive stage changes during the associative stage:

  • Basic fundamentals have been learned. Errors are fewer and less gross in nature.
  • Variability of performance from one attempt to another also begins to decrease.
  • Learners have developed the ability to identify some of their own errors.

TEACHING IMPLICATIONS

  • Start refining the skill. Give more detailed feedback.
  • Have learner focus on different parts and incorporate more advanced drills.
  • Don’t give feedback after every repeat. Research shows when you give feedback more than 50% of the time– learning is hindered.

AUTONOMOUS STAGE OF LEARNING

After much practice and experience with the skill, the learner moves into the final stage of learning, the autonomous stage. Here the skill is almost automatic or habitual. In learn-to-swim, we really rarely see a learner in this stage. Why? Because as soon as our students become proficient enough at the skill where they have the general idea, we graduate the student to the next level.   When we graduate them to the next level, what stage does the student return to? If we are teaching them a new skill, they go back into the Cognitive Stage of Learning where they have to attend to the entire production of the skill again.   Whereas students in the autonomous stage of learning can perform most of the skill without thinking at all.

Fitts and Posner state that “there is a good deal of similarity between highly practiced skills and reflexes.” This doesn’t mean that learning stops or the individual ceases to make errors but rather that there is no longer a need for conscious attention to the motor act itself.   Think about a competitive swimmer participating in a big meet. The swimmer isn’t thinking about the pattern of the stroke as he races to the finish.   The swimmer is on automatic.

I hope you found today’s blog useful!

The International Swimming Hall of Fame has named Jim Reiser the recipient of the 2015 Virginia Hunt Newman Award for his curriculum and approach in teaching infants, toddlers, and children to swim.  Jim is the first American to win the award in 10 years.

If you would like to learn more about the Swim Lessons University certification program and curriculum, make sure to visit us at www.SwimLessonsUniversity.com  We have training and certification programs designed for both private instructors as well as organizations like YMCAs, Recreation Departments, Athletic Clubs, and more.

Swim Lessons University is currently being utilized by recreation departments, YMCAs, America Camp Association swim lessons programs, as well as by private swimming instructors in 45 states and over 30 countries!

You can also call us toll free at 1-866-498-SWIM (7946).

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January 20, 2017 at 3:46 am Comments (0)

How to Use Specific, Corrective Feedback in Swimming Lessons

In my previous blog, ‘How to Use Positive Feedback in Swimming Lessons,” we discussed the importance of using general positive feedback in swimming lessons. Praising your students, whether it be for an actual improvement in performance or for the student’s effort is paramount when it comes to teaching children. Nonetheless, while swimming instructors must be positive and encouraging, we can’t expect our young students to improve without letting the learner know what he or she must do differently in order to improve.

The use of Specific, Corrective Feedback has been the subject of research in motor learning and in teaching. Theoretically, specific information should be more valuable to the learner. Specific feedback has the potential to contribute to student learning a great deal more than general feedback. Specific feedback also serves a major role in maintaining student attention to the task and in developing accountability for task. (Rink, 1993).

What’s important to understand about Specific, Corrective Feedback is that when learners are in the beginning stages (See Cognitive Stage of Learning in my 1/8/17 blog), they cannot use detailed information, which makes it absolutely critical for swimming instructors to give feedback that tends to the “general idea” of the skill. At Swim Lessons University, we have buzzwords and cues for every skill on every lesson plan. We train SLU instructors to give their specific, corrective feedback based on those cues because they have been tested, tried and proven over the past 30+ years. In other words, these cues are not only practical and easy to understand, but they will help the young student learn and master the new skill.

With that said, Specific, Corrective Feedback can also come with a cost if it is overused. Research by The Positive Coaching Alliance shows the magic formula is 5:1! Five positives for every correction.   One technique I like to use is the “Sandwich Technique” when giving corrections: Complement, correct, complement. For example, “Maggie, you have such beautiful strokes. Now if you can just keep your head nice and still, your backstroke is going to look even more fabulous!” While this may be a 2:1 ratio, you just make sure to praise your student on a few more things that your student is doing well before giving another correction. Hope you found this blog helpful!

The International Swimming Hall of Fame has named Jim Reiser the recipient of the 2015 Virginia Hunt Newman Award for his curriculum and approach in teaching infants, toddlers, and children to swim.  Jim is the first American to win the award in 10 years.

If you would like to learn more about the Swim Lessons University certification program and curriculum, make sure to visit us at www.SwimLessonsUniversity.com  We have training and certification programs designed for both private instructors as well as organizations like YMCAs, Recreation Departments, Athletic Clubs, and more.

Swim Lessons University is currently being utilized by recreation departments, YMCAs, America Camp Association swim lessons programs, as well as by private swimming instructors in 45 states and over 30 countries!

You can also call us toll free at 1-866-498-SWIM (7946).

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January 12, 2017 at 5:11 am Comments (0)

Swim Instructor Tips Daily on Twitter!

For the first time ever–you and your staff can get FREE SWIM LESSON TEACHING TIPS each and every day simply by following me on Twitter @SwimProfessor!  Here are five examples of upcoming TIPS OF THE DAY:

    • Teach implicitly by utilizing analogies. What are your favorite analogies?
    • Praise in public. Criticize in private.
    • Want better office décor? Ask your learn-to-swim students to draw you a picture!
    • Learning to swim is a process, not an event. Reassure parents that their child is progressing well!
    • Can you embrace something to like about EVERY STUDENT? You will enjoy teaching much more when you do!

So those are just a few of more than 200 TIPS OF THE DAY that I have already written!   In addition, if you and your staff follow me on twitter–you will also get updates on BLOGS OF THE WEEK, sWIM PROFESSOR YOUTUBE VIDEOS OF THE WEEK, and SWIM LESSONS UNIVERSITY FEATURED PRODUCTS OF THE MONTH which will be DISCOUNTED at 20% OFF!

I sincerely appreciate your follows, likes, and @mentions! I promise it will be worth your while!

The International Swimming Hall of Fame has named Jim Reiser the recipient of the 2015 Virginia Hunt Newman Award for his curriculum and approach in teaching infants, toddlers, and children to swim.  Jim is the first American to win the award in 10 years.

If you would like to learn more about the Swim Lessons University certification program and curriculum, make sure to visit us at www.SwimLessonsUniversity.com  We have training and certification programs designed for both private instructors as well as organizations like YMCAs, Recreation Departments, Athletic Clubs, and more.

Swim Lessons University is currently being utilized by recreation departments, YMCAs, America Camp Association swim lessons programs, as well as by private swimming instructors in 45 states and over 30 countries!

You can also call us toll free at 1-866-498-SWIM (7946).

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December 16, 2016 at 5:37 pm Comments (0)

Swim Lessons University Cyber Week Savings

Whether you’re an aquatic director, swim school owner, or swimming instructor–IF you’re looking for Cyber Week savings–you found it!   Most everything on the Swim Lessons University website is 20% OFF all week!

Everything from Swim Instructor Training Materials:
To Swim Instructor Tools:
To Swim Gear:
To Water Safety Resources:

 

These items and much, much, more! PLACE YOUR ORDER TODAY!

To your success!

Jim Reiser, Executive Director
www.swimlessonsuniversity.com
1-866-498-SWIM (7946)

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November 29, 2016 at 2:08 am Comments (0)

How to Teach Breaststroke to Beginners

Here’s an inside look at Jim Reiser teaching one of his new students the breaststroke.  As you can see, his student is just in the beginning phases of learning the stroke.  Coach Reiser will not only use good verbal cues and specific, corrective feedback, he also incorporates kinesthetic teaching methods so Austin can “feel” what he needs to do in order to swim the stroke correctly.  Let’s take a peak:

The International Swimming Hall of Fame has named Jim Reiser the recipient of the 2015 Virginia Hunt Newman Award for his curriculum and approach in teaching infants, toddlers, and children to swim.  Jim is the first American to win the award in 10 years.

If you would like to learn more about the Swim Lessons University certification program and curriculum, make sure to visit us at www.SwimLessonsUniversity.com  We have training and certification programs designed for both private instructors as well as organizations like YMCAs, Recreation Departments, Athletic Clubs, and more.

Swim Lessons University is currently being utilized by recreation departments, YMCAs, America Camp Association swim lessons programs, as well as by private swimming instructors in 45 states and over 30 countries!

You can also call us toll free at 1-866-498-SWIM (7946).

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November 21, 2016 at 4:59 am Comments (0)

Demonstration Tips for Swimming Instructors

When giving demonstrations in your learn-to-swim classes, there are a number of critical factors that should be taken into consideration. In fact, numerous studies have been conducted to support the following demonstration considerations:

  • Status of the model (Landers and Landers, 1973)
  • When the model should begin demonstrating (McCullagh, Weis, and Ross, 1989)
  • Correctness of the demonstration (Landers and Landers, 1973)
  • Observing incorrect demonstrations (Weir & Leavitt, 1990)
  • Frequency of demonstrations (Sidaway 1992)

My goal in this blog/video on demonstrations, however, is to focus in on how the age and skill level should influence your demonstration.

Here are a Few Demonstration Guidelines:

Young Beginners (Swim 101):

      • Limit your demonstrations (one or two is sufficient).
      • Have them seated on a step or bench (keep them in the water).
      • Perform your demonstrations toward the students so you can see them at all times.

Stroke-Ready (Swim Strokes 201) or school aged beginners(Swim 102/103):

  • Limit your demonstrations (one or two is sufficient).
  • Keeping your students safety in mind, you may want these students to stand so they get a better look at what you are demonstrating (Standing gives them a higher vantage point which may be helpful).
  • Keeping safety in mind (each class is different), providing your students a look at the skill from different angles can be especially helpful (see video embedded below).

Advanced Strokes (Advanced Swim Strokes 300 or Lifesaving Strokes 400):

  • Provide a third demonstration if you feel it would be helpful and that you still have your student’s attention
  • Keeping your students safety in mind, you may want these students to stand so they get a better look at what you are demonstrating (Standing gives them a higher vantage point which may be helpful).
  • Keeping safety in mind (each class is different), providing your students a look at the skill from different angles can be especially helpful (see video embedded below).

Three More Helpful Tips for ALL Ages and Skill Levels:

  1. Don’t just demonstrate when a skill is new.   Demonstrate anytime you feel that feedback alone isn’t getting the job done. “Seeing it” again can be huge!
  2. Make sure that you are performing the skill correctly.       Students are very good at replicating what they see (right or wrong).
  3. Compare and contrast. Show the skill correctly vs. the skill incorrectly vs. the skill correctly again.

The International Swimming Hall of Fame has named Jim Reiser the recipient of the 2015 Virginia Hunt Newman Award for his curriculum and approach in teaching infants, toddlers, and children to swim.  Jim is the first American to win the award in 10 years.

If you would like to learn more about the Swim Lessons University certification program and curriculum, make sure to visit us at www.SwimLessonsUniversity.com  We have training and certification programs designed for both private instructors as well as organizations like YMCAs, Recreation Departments, Athletic Clubs, and more.

Swim Lessons University is currently being utilized by recreation departments, YMCAs, America Camp Association swim lessons programs, as well as by private swimming instructors in 45 states and over 30 countries!

You can also call us toll free at 1-866-498-SWIM (7946).

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November 13, 2016 at 7:48 pm Comments (0)

Swim Lesson Games for Breath Control: “Whack-a-Mole!”

Have you ever seen the “Whack-a-Mole” game at Chuck E. Cheese’s?   That’s where I got the  idea for “Whack-a-Mole” in the pool!  The children like when I pretend to be a “grumpy old man” (I’m really not :-)and they pretend to be the moles.    As you can see below, the kids really love it.  In fact, it is one of my most requested games from my Swim 102 and Swim Strokes 200 level students!

SAFETY NOTE:  As you can see in the video, all you have to do to make “your club” is simply slide the foam from one end of the barbell next to the other.  Even though the barbell is made of foam, I strongly recommend that you hit the water to the right or left of where the child goes underwater to be sure you don’t actually hit anyone!   This safety precaution also actually makes this swim lesson game even more fun because you can hit the water harder–making more noise and adding to the excitement . . . for the kids of course!

The International Swimming Hall of Fame has named Jim Reiser the recipient of the 2015 Virginia Hunt Newman Award for his curriculum and approach in teaching infants, toddlers, and children to swim.  Jim is the first American to win the award in 10 years.

If you would like to learn more about the Swim Lessons University certification program and curriculum, make sure to visit us at www.SwimLessonsUniversity.com  We have training and certification programs designed for both private instructors as well as organizations like YMCAs, Recreation Departments, Athletic Clubs, and more.

Swim Lessons University is currently being utilized by recreation departments, YMCAs, America Camp Association swim lessons programs, as well as by private swimming instructors in 45 states and over 30 countries!

You can also call us toll free at 1-866-498-SWIM (7946).

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November 5, 2016 at 8:14 pm Comments (0)

Halloween Swim Lessons Games for Beginners

Would you like a fun, breath holding activity for your beginners with a Halloween theme? Give this one a try!

While this a seasonal activity, it is perfectly adequate to utilize in the Breath Holding part of the Swim Lessons University Swim 101 Lesson Plan.

The International Swimming Hall of Fame has named Jim Reiser the recipient of the 2015 Virginia Hunt Newman Award for his curriculum and approach in teaching infants, toddlers, and children to swim.  Jim is the first American to win the award in 10 years.

If you would like to learn more about the Swim Lessons University certification program and curriculum, make sure to visit us at www.SwimLessonsUniversity.com  We have training and certification programs designed for both private instructors as well as organizations like YMCAs, Recreation Departments, Athletic Clubs, and more.

Swim Lessons University is currently being utilized by recreation departments, YMCAs, America Camp Association swim lessons programs, as well as by private swimming instructors in 45 states and over 30 countries!

You can also call us toll free at 1-866-498-SWIM (7946).

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October 30, 2016 at 1:01 am Comments (0)

Halloween Swim Lesson Games

Halloween is just around the corner, so I wanted to share an activity I created called the “Haunted Island.”   I use it mainly during “In-line/prone kick” skill since it’s a simple skill that doesn’t require a lot of feedback.  In other words, when I get to the part of the lesson where we are working on the freestyle/front crawl (I combined a Swim 102 student with a Swim Strokes 201 student), I can get back to giving the children more specific, corrective feedback to ensure the class is both INSTRUCTIONAL and FUN!

I think that you will find that when you teach perpetual swim lessons (weekly lessons vs. sessions), theme-based activities and games are extremely valuable to keep the monotony out of the lessons.  Of course, it is equally important that you don’t lose sight of the skills that your students need to learn in the curriculum.

At any rate, here is an activity/game for the in-line kick that we call “The Haunted Island!”  I hope you and your students have as much fun with it as we did!

While this a seasonal activity, it is perfectly adequate to utilize in the In-line Kick part of the Swim Lessons University Lesson Plan.

The International Swimming Hall of Fame has named Jim Reiser the recipient of the 2015 Virginia Hunt Newman Award for his curriculum and approach in teaching infants, toddlers, and children to swim.  Jim is the first American to win the award in 10 years.

If you would like to learn more about the Swim Lessons University certification program and curriculum, make sure to visit us at www.SwimLessonsUniversity.com  We have training and certification programs designed for both private instructors as well as organizations like YMCAs, Recreation Departments, Athletic Clubs, and more.

Swim Lessons University is currently being utilized by recreation departments, YMCAs, America Camp Association swim lessons programs, as well as by private swimming instructors in 45 states and over 30 countries!

You can also call us toll free at 1-866-498-SWIM (7946).

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October 28, 2016 at 3:48 pm Comments (0)

Private Swimming Lesson Ideas for Toddlers and Preschoolers

Have you ever taught a private swimming lesson? Have you ever needed a couple activities in your back pocket to add some fun and variety to the lesson?  Here’s a couple quick ideas that you could try in your toddler or preschool swim lessons:

While these aren’t regular activities that are part of our curriculum, they are certainly great “fillers” that can keep your private swim lessons fun and upbeat, or something you can throw in for a change of pace.  As you could see, this little toddler absolutely loved “The Motorboat Song” and the little tosses up in the air!

The International Swimming Hall of Fame has named Jim Reiser the recipient of the 2015 Virginia Hunt Newman Award for his curriculum and approach in teaching infants, toddlers, and children to swim.  Jim is the first American to win the award in 10 years.

If you would like to learn more about the Swim Lessons University certification program and curriculum, make sure to visit us at www.SwimLessonsUniversity.com  We have training and certification programs designed for both private instructors as well as organizations like YMCAs, Recreation Departments, Athletic Clubs, and more.

Swim Lessons University is currently being utilized by recreation departments, YMCAs, America Camp Association swim lessons programs, as well as by private swimming instructors in 45 states and over 30 countries!

You can also call us toll free at 1-866-498-SWIM (7946).

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October 27, 2016 at 1:51 am Comments (0)

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